Keeping up with mowing your lawn can be tough when the dog days of summer hit. In those typically hot months, bermuda and zoysia grasses are making energy and growing at insane rates in good conditions. You may have noticed brown patches when you cut recently. Maybe the clippings are really starting to pile up. Both of these could be indicators that you’re cutting too much turf at one time. Raising cut heights is a great way to recover and increase the health of your lawn.
I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to introduce myself: my name is Jared, and I’m our Agronomist at Nature’s Turf. Before joining this fantastic team, I was a golf course superintendent. When talking about mowing strategy, it often helps to talk about it in context. I’m going to break down how cut height and mowing frequency are inextricably linked by talking about the turf areas of a golf course, and I’ll let you in on a secret–a product that the pros at golf courses and the pros at Nature’s Turf have access to.
Greens: Very Short, Firm, and Fast
During peak growing season, golf course greens are cut every day or every other day. I’ll start here because the greens are the shortest turf on a golf course. Depending on species, conditions, the amount of golf played, and the amount of money a course has to spend, greens can be shorter than one tenth of an inch.
Beginning this conversation about mow heights with such an extreme is a good place to start. Most species and varieties of grass planted in a lawn wouldn’t survive well if cut as short as greens are cut, and virtually nobody would want to afford the expense and time required to have a yard this short. It paints a good picture because the rules don’t change when grass gets this short. You should still only remove around ⅓ of the overall turf height, and that may only be .033 of an inch. It doesn’t take long to exceed this amount when conditions are good, so cutting daily or every other day becomes a requirement.
Cut heights are often raised on greens during stressful times and recovery times. This is done for a couple of reasons. Most importantly for this conversation, taller cutheights can increase the time between cuts. This trend continues even as heights increase.
Fairways: Short, Firm, and Fast
During peak growing season, which is now for bermuda and zoysia (middle July through the end of August), fairways are mowed 2-3 times per week, depending on the budget, personnel, program, strategy, and weather. That’s foreshadowing for the cheat code mentioned in the title (which I promise to share with you). Some courses with shorter fairways, collars, and tees cut even more frequently.
The ⅓ rule applies to fairways like it does all turf areas. Fairways may only be .65 of an inch or less, and the amount of grass you can remove at a time is less than a quarter of an inch. If you’re more than a day or two off schedule, significant damage is possible if the turf is growing well. Even on schedule, it can be tough to keep up with short-cut turf. What do the pros do?
What do the pros do? They raise cut heights. The cut height may be incremental since the adjustments on their equipment tend to be more fine than the average home lawn equipment, but they raise heights nonetheless. This is to reduce injury and to continue to encourage health and density. Most growers will scalp or at least significantly reduce cut heights at the beginning of a season just as dormancy begins to break, giving themselves a buffer to grow into. They then increase heights strategically, reaching their max as dormancy approaches.
Rough: Tall, Thick, and Penalizing
In peak growing season, roughs are cut once or twice a week, depending on all of the same variables fairways face. When people hear rough, they think about the beautiful ankle-high grass that waits to ruin a good round at the US Open. Most golf courses maintain rough at a height similar to recommendations for home lawns, however.
A cut height of 1.5-2” is a great rough and lawn height. You can cut as much as .5-.66” each time you mow. Outside of extreme growth, mowing these areas every 5-7 days is generally sufficient to avoid injury, allowing the grass to do things healthy grasses do. Just like with fairways, when the grass in your lawn is hard to keep up with, increasing cut heights often helps reduce injury between cuts.
When cut heights are restarted on fairways at dormancy break, roughs are also typically reset, and they start beneath the target height range by a margin. This allows them to grow into target height. The same can be done for your yard. Scalping isn’t always necessary, nor is it recommended for zoysia. Resetting to 1.25” just before green up and increasing when necessary helps maintain a schedule of 5-7 days through the growing season.
Growth Regulators: The Cheat Code You Didn’t Know You Had
Nice equipment, large crews, and the completely committed attention of experienced professionals are the largest factors that separate a golf course like the ones on TV from everyday lawns owned by busy homeowners.Those crews can obsess and maximize the health of their turf at all heights. They also use a tool that you may not be aware of: growth regulators
Specialized products called growth regulators shorten the distance between leaves, slow vertical growth, and encourage lateral buds to send shoots. When mixed with a little foliar and soil fertilizer, your lawn gets increased plant health, soil health, better color, and a reduction in the amount of clippings yielded during regular mowing schedules. This keeps healthy plants doing healthy plant things.
Fortunately, Nature’s Turf offers growth regulators as an addition to our bermuda and zoysia programs. While the addition of growth regulators can help increase the amount of time between mowings, it can also greatly improve health, density, and drought tolerance when mowed weekly.
If we can answer any questions about mow heights or growth regulators, feel free to contact our support staff at 770-461-4156, or send an email to us at email@example.com. One of our qualified and experienced support members would love to discuss strategies for cultivating the healthiest, most beautiful lawn possible.